Season 11 Week 5 Player Showcase

by Looter-Scooter

With week 4 ending, division play in the VML has passed its halfway point. Players are now much more focused on getting to the top 2 spots in their division to make the playoffs. Today I talked to some of the leaders of each division, all of whom are undefeated, to learn more about them as players. 


First is Rah, from Division 1. This is their first VML season, and they didn’t think they’d do too well at first. This week they’re playing Esper Midrange vs Boros Convoke. 

What does your testing process look like each week?

“Usually my testing process changes each week. Sometimes it’s just a couple of walkthrough matches to get the feel of what I’m going against, other times I’m experimenting with any additions/subtractions I’ve cooked up during the week. Most of my energy goes into prepping for the match.”

What was your hardest match this season?

“My toughest match was against Abby Rose. It went down to the wire, and both of our decks were pretty evenly matched. I’ve thought about asking her if she’d want to be a sparring partner.”


Also leading Division 1 is BLMMM, playing in their 3rd VML season after making top 16 in Season 9. This week they’re also playing Esper Midrange vs Boros Convoke.

How did you start playing Magic?

“I’ve started Magic with Allegiance of Ravnica and I was playing in a casual way until the lockdown (Theros set) Where I really started to enjoy Magic in a competitive way”

What was your hardest match this season?

“My toughest match was this week actually, I was playing Esper midrange against Boros convoke. My opponent had really nice draws on game 1 and managed to win it. I’ve had a pretty solid game 2 with a good board pressure. Game 3 was really good from both sides but resolving 2 Temporary Lockdowns really made my day”


Cliffboyardee leads Division 7, playing in his first VML. This week he’s playing Azorius Control vs Esper Midrange.

How do you feel about your match this week?

“I’ve played this one many times as it’s one of the more common matchups in the format. I feel slightly favored being able to go over the top but they can have very disruptive draws sometimes”

What does your testing process look like?

“Working with team LevelUp we try to gauge the metagame at large and select the best decks that we’re comfortable with, then within my pod I try to tweak my list further based on what I might expect my opponents to do.”

Cora Stobie

Cora Stobie, who thrashed me in week 3, is the only 4-0 player in Division 6. This is her 3rd VML season, including a top 32 finish in seasons 9 and 10. This week she’s playing Dimir Control vs 5 Color Ramp.

What does your testing process look like?

“The week before the match I do a thorough investigation of which decks my opponent has played, both in the current VML tournament and any previous seasons. I try to identify which playstyles they enjoy playing and then try to select a deck which is favoured for their most recent deck choice and their preferred style of play. Or, if my opponent has a strong favourite then I may choose a card I feel presents a real obstacle to that player and try to find the best home for it for the following week – this is how I ended on Jeskai Dragons for week 2 (where do I play Zurgo & Ojutai + Cavern of Souls?) and Dimir Control week 3 (Cut Down, Long Goodbye and The End). I then test the deck over the intervening week and make subtle changes to tweak the matchup some more. In a normal season I test the matchups with a team, but this season I didn’t have the time commitment for a team so I just run a lot of ladder games to test.”

How do you feel about this week’s match?

“A little worried but also excited! Last season I was knocked out of top 32 by Domain Ramp and I have a healthy respect for the deck. I suspected my opponent would play this or Azorius Soldiers and prepared my deck a little more for the Soldiers matchup (as I was on Bant Toxic last week which eats Domain) so I have some dead cards game 1. But I get to try to play a weird game of trying to make my opponent run out of wincons now, which I think will be very fun. We’ll see if the brainworms can triumph!”


Playing in her second VML season, Sarah is undefeated in Division 15. She’s playing Esper Midrange vs Mono Red Aggro this week.

How did you start playing Magic?

“Started with just kitchen table magic in middle school back when Shadowmoor released. Friends and I just played whatever we opened in boosters. Didn’t really get into constructed magic until the pandemic.”

What was your hardest match this season?

“I’d say my week 2 match against Nyxxborn, which was on coverage, was my toughest match. I went down to 1 life in games 1 and 3 against mono red aggro in some extremely close games. All three games felt like if I made a tiny sequencing mistake or messed up a single combat step I’d lose on the spot.”


From Division 16 is Sprite278. This is her first VML season and she’s playing 5 Color Ramp vs 4 Color Ramp. 

What does your testing process look like?

“I’ve been so lucky with the testing team I’m on – everyone has been super helpful and lovely. I’ve been able to get at least one or two practice matches in with them each week, and they’ve helped talk through sideboarding strategies, etc. as well. In terms of deck building, I’ve stayed with Domain, mostly because it’s by far the deck I know the best, but I’ve tried to pre-board a bit each week based on what my opponents have been playing and what my testing team has been saying about what is or isn’t working for them.”

How do you feel about this week’s match?

“This is probably the most nervous I’ve been about a matchup. My opponent this week (Six5ths) has been doing really well, and they put together the new 68-card Slogurk brew that everyone is so hyped up about. I’m definitely wishing that I had left the Tranquil Frillbacks in my sideboard, lol. Hopefully, I can get a few practice reps in this week and make a good showing though!”


Keyo is playing in their 3rd VML season, and looking to repeat their top 32 finish from last season. They’re playing Azorius Control vs Mono Red Aggro in Division 3. 

How did you start playing Magic?

“A friend brought a Dark Ascension starter deck to middle school (I’m sorry.) and I was hooked from that point on. First actual events were for Return to Ravnica, went to a bunch of GPs, SCG Opens, and so on. Never fully stopped playing, but took a break after Khans of Tarkir, and focused on Hearthstone. Been playing a bunch again since Dominaria United.”

What does your testing process look like?

“At this point in the season I’m just looking to play the best deck, not really paying much attention to what my opponents are playing in any given week, and certainly not altering my list for it. No match is a MUST WIN yet, so I just try to put myself in the best position to win overall.”


Aspi is the most experienced VML player this week, playing her 4th season for Division 12. She’s playing Azorius Control vs Boros Convoke this week.

What was your hardest match this season?

“Kayla’s deck choice seem very predictable 5 weeks in but I confronted her during the first one and played 5c against simic toxic. Fortunately I was already on lockdowns main on the domain side and got the 2-1 win.”

How do you feel about this week’s match?

“I’m playing a deck with 8 sweepers main against convoke so very good. Having beaten the 2 runner up in my division in the head to head clears the mind too. My list is slightly teched to win the mirror but shouldn’t have problems wiping the board on turn 3/4/5 at least 2 times before closing the door with the Wandering Emperor.”


LadyJ is playing her first VML season in Division 8. This week she registered Azorius Control and is paired against Boros Convoke.

How did you start playing Magic?

“I used to play with my older brother Ken when I was growing up. I had a singular elf tribal deck. I stopped playing in middle school, but picked back up Magic last March when I attended Dreamhack San Diego with my husband. It was his first RC, and it inspired me to give Magic another go.”

What was your hardest match this season?

“My toughest match up this season would probably be week 4, when I registered Mono-red aggro with 4 End the Festivities thinking my opponent would be on Boros Convoke, but they ended up being on Golgari Midrange. I eked out a victory, fittingly winning game 1 with an End the Festivities!”

Wrap Up

That wraps up for this week’s player showcase! Next week I’ll be interviewing the leaders of the other divisions.